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Preview: UMass Hosts UConn In First League Match of 2015

Connecticut Huskies 4-9-4 (2-4-1) Hockey East 9th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 5-13-0 (1-9-0) Hockey East 12th

Massachusetts will face UConn for the first time as a Hockey East foe on Friday night as the Minutemen continue to look for their second league win of the season.  At the beginning of the season this game probably looked like a good chance of a win since the Huskies were not expected to compete in their new league right away.  But that hasn’t been the case.  UConn has had some key wins and ties in the league and find themselves not only ahead of the Minutemen in the standings, but Maine and New Hampshire too.

In addition to their big win over Boston College in their first ever home Hockey East, they also beat Vermont the night before the Catamounts beat UMass 11-1 and also tied Boston University the same week they beat BC.  They’ve even picked up an non-conference tie against Merrimack.  Out of conference the Huskies picked up a big victory over intrastate foe Quinnipiac and then just this past weekend defeated defending national champion Union in the Frozen Holiday Classic.  Just a season and a half into his tenure as head coach and Mike Cavanaugh already has the UConn program reaching heights it never has before.

The Huskies’ strength has been their defense.  The 2.53 goals given up per game is tied for 6th best among Hockey East teams with Boston College.  Goaltender Rob Nichols has the 3rd best save percentage among league goalies with .931.  The sophomore has played all but 26 minutes of UConn’s season so far.  It also helps that the Huskies have a couple NHL draft picks on the blueline as well in sophomore Ryan Segalla and freshman David Drake.

When Nichols and the defense has been able to hold their opponents to just a couple goals they’ve had success.  But if they give up any more than that the Huskies have struggled because they’ve been so poor offensively.  Their 1.76 goals scored per game is last among Hockey East teams and 7th worst in the country.  Their power play at 9.8% is also 7th worst in the country.  Senior Trevor Gerling, their leading scorer, has just five goals on the season.  Freshman Spencer Naas is the only other player with more than 3 goals with 4.

For UMass they just need to repeat what they did in their last game out, the 5-1 win against Air Force.  In that game they did well in all aspects; offense, defense, and special teams.  Against UConn they’re going to need to find a way to solve Nichols and find the back of the net.  They need to find a way to win.  With a dozen Hockey East games left, it’s important that they take points from the other teams near the bottom of the standings.  UConn is one of those teams.

Beer The Triangle
Apparently Berkshire Brewing has made an Imperial Steel Rail Ale.  My hope is to find some sometime this weekend.

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